How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
I was exposed to photography at a very tender age. In the early 2000s, my father, a practising professional teacher had a film camera that he shot with in his spare time. The first photography task I did was helping him stick the processed film negatives to their respective photos. As I grew up, he taught me how to take photos and this passion was ignited. For school sake, I parted ways with photography for a number of years as I went through the system. While in campus, my dad bought me a digital camera that I used to take all manner of photos in my campus days. After campus, I ventured to academic writing, having decided formal employment was not the thing for me based on my attachment experience. In my spare time, I learned how to edit photos that I took with my digital camera using adobe Photoshop and shared the same online. After a while people took notice and started asking me to take their photos. It is safe to say my potential market came looking for me. It is at this point that I gave professional photography a thought and in February 2016, my brainchild Lines Photography Kenya came into being, getting bigger and better to date.
How have you managed to build a successful customer base?
Technological advancement and easy access to photography gear has led to a boom in professional photography which has in turn flooded the market. Customer acquisition and retention therefore comes in handy for us as professional photographers as it is the key to staying in business. The biggest factor that has pulled many customers to our business and retained them is the quality of our work. At just two years in the field, our work really stands out. The style of our photos, our vibrant colors and the experience that is shooting with us keeps our customer base growing gradually, ranging from individuals to corporate entities.
What is unique about your business?
Quality, efficiency, affordability. Affordable quality delivered in record time is our operational philosophy. Before I was a photographer, I was a client to other photographers. One of the challenges I encountered was very late delivery of photos. I equate photos to food on matters delivery. Photos should be delivered fresh and hot as soon as possible and that is what we do at Lines photography without compromising on quality or breaking our clients’ banks.
What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish
this culture and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
At Lines photography, we tend to be more of shooters than editors. Currently in the photography world, there is an influx of professionals who rely on software and post production to give their clients the best quality of work possible. We do it different. Being a self-taught photographer myself, the biggest lesson I have acquired is not to rely on software and post production to rectify aspects of a photo that I can get right in camera. This is the culture I abide by, pass to my team and the students I train. Being capable manual shooters means we take less time working on our photos after a shoot and this ensures our clients get their photos in the shortest time possible.
What’s most exciting about your traction to date?
Over the two years we have been in the industry, we have made remarkable growth. The biggest indicator of this lies in our clientele base. We have acquired and retained a wide range of clients ranging from individuals to parastatals and global brands. Just to mention but a few, we have worked with Redbull Kenya as their official photographer, companies including Resolution Insurance, ABNO Softwares Intl, Nimble Group Africa among others. We have also done assignments for UN Environment, County Government of Kitui, Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) among others. Revenue generated has enabled us to keep growing in terms of personnel, gear and skill.
At the moment, how do you measure/define success?
Away from the normal ways of measuring business success, I evaluate mine based on how much I impact those I interact with through my photography. Every time I do a task that meets the client’s expectations in all aspects, that’s success to me. I treasure the satisfaction that comes with a job well done that the remuneration that comes with it. Secondly, I am a personal trainer to a number of photographers. I pass down whatever little knowledge I have with them and the first bunch of trainees is shooting quality and getting gigs, that is more than success for me.
SIMON CHEGE PORTFOLIO
If you had the chance to start your business over again, what would you do differently?
I would shoot less. By shooting less I mean, major on a few branches of photography rather than shoot everything like I did at the beginning of my career. My first portfolio had every kind of work I did in my first year as a photographer, which as you would guess, was a year of extensive experimentation to see what would work for me. As a result, my first portolio left potential clients confused about what my strengths are, and did not bring in much work. Learning from that, I have narrowed my art down to portraiture, events and conceptual work, with a portfolio for each and I feel the difference already.
What will your business look like in 5-10 years if things went according to plan?
I don’t plan be an active photographer for long, my ultimate goal is to be a photography trainer and an inspiration to many than I am already. Is such a timeline, with everything working right God willing, the first few branches of Lines School of Photography, my photography school, should be operational. The joy of my life is seeing a fellow photographer do a little better and possibly make more gain from their art through my contribution, no matter how small it might be. As a predecessor to Lines School of Photography, my Instagram and WhatsApp based photography lessons and interactions platform titled “Learning with Lines” is already up and running with a good level of reach and impact to the participants. A successful exit for me in an inspired, skilled and capable next generation of shooters from the several branches I plan my school to have.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
In a bid to serve everyone and take every job that I came across as I discovered myself as a photographer, I at times found myself taking jobs that I could not adequately handle. Having already committed myself, I had to find ways of ensuring I delivered what I had promised and this would dig deeper into my pockets and/or time and energy. This experience gave me a vital lesson that I hold dear to date; if in doubt, it is okay to turn down a job you cannot handle. It is much better not to take a given task than to take it then not deliver.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Don’t try to win everyone over. I equate the different types of photography we have to music genres. A good artist must not be a rapper, singer, dancer and what not, same to a good photographer. No single photographer shoot everyone and everything. The market is big enough for all of us. When you shoot to win over everybody, you lose your style and identity. Nobody wants to work with a photographer who has no style that identifies them. Experiment, discover what style suits you, perfect it, package it, sell it, the world has someone who will love that and pay for it.